Back in May around Memorial Day, we listed some of our favorite War Films that are guaranteed to entertain and keep your interest. We could have easily added a couple of more as the genre always has some worthy additions by Hollywood’s filmmakers. This year’s blockbuster “Dunkirk” could easily make its way into that list.
But today’s list is going in the opposite direction. These are some of the worst war films, in our humble opinion out there. In every genre, especially one as chocked full of entries as the war film category, you’ll have plenty of lousy films, that are just groan worthy from military veterans and war film buffs alike.
So watch these following films…if you dare. But as a word to the wise. You may turn it off before it is over. As some of these films are just plain awful. Normally we’d say, drum roll, please. Instead, we’ll play a dirge. In no particular order here is your Wall of Shame of Worst War Films:
Battle of the Bulge (1965) – Despite a stellar All-Star cast of Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Dana Andrews, George Montgomery and James MacArthur this one got nearly everything wrong. The uniforms, the tanks, the history was skewed horribly.
Less than a minute into the film, the narrator, William Conrad uttered this: “To the south lay Patton’s Third Army, to the North Montgomery’s Eighth”….What? Field Marshal Montgomery’s Eighth Army, for which he rose to fame in the desert, was in Italy, not the Northern edge of the Bulge. That should tell you right away that this stinker was not going to get things right.
The German Tiger Tanks were actually M-47 Patton tanks and the American Shermans were portrayed by M-24 Chaffee light tanks. Filmed entirely in Spain, the terrain resembled the wooded, hilly Ardennes, not at all.
The film wasted a good performance from Robert Shaw, as the fanatical SS officer Col. Hessler who was tasked to break through the Allied lines. Shaw’s Hessler was loosely based on SS Colonel Joachim Peiper. No mention is made of the counter-attack from Patton’s forces from the south, the 101st Airborne’s holding of the key road junction of Bastogne or the Allied air power, which after the skies cleared, decimated the Germans on the ground.
Instead, this film would have you believe that the only thing that stopped the Germans from reaching Antwerp was the lack of gas. The climactic tank battle at the end was another loosely based big tank battle at Celles. In the film, the Germans wipe out the American forces. In reality, it was the opposite. The 2nd Armored Division left 88 German tanks smoking in the hills. This film was so bad that General Eisenhower came out of retirement to excoriate it for its lack of historical accuracy.
Inchon (1979) – This stinker was produced by the religious leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon, head of the powerful Unification Church in the 1980s. He put up $30 million of his own cash to make this limp, tepid offering. The production costs ballooned up to $46 million, which would be near $150 million today. Sir Laurence Olivier was paid $1 million bucks to play General Douglas MacArthur and it is clear, he was there for the paycheck only.
Rev. Moon claimed that the spirit of MacArthur visited him during the filming giving his blessing to the project. OK…does anything else need to be added here?
The cast of Olivier, Ben Gazzara, and Jacqueline Bissett was wasted here with dialogue as dry as a buffalo fart. Olivier looked more like Emperor Palpatine than MacArthur in this one. And Moon threw in a little sex action between Gazzara and a Korean hottie while cheating on Bissett who was his wife at home to take away from the rest of this potboiler I guess to show that the war was the cause of marital infidelity. It was actually filmed in 1979 and Moon shopped for three years for a studio to release this turkey.
I didn’t make it thru the original release, falling asleep in the theater and guarantee if you are having sleep issues watch this and it will do the trick. This one was so bad that MGM didn’t even release it on video. You can find it on YouTube if you care to.
Pearl Harbor (2001) – Michael Bay took a 90-minute action film about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and squeezed it into a 3-hour 3-minute monstrosity that took severe creative license with the actual history. Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale who are involved in a complicated love triangle during the and immediate aftermath of the Japanese attack that kicked the U.S. into World War II.
Pearl Harbor had a huge operating budget of $140 million but made a respectable $450 million at the box office. Some of it was filmed in the huge Baja Studio that James Cameron built for Titanic. And the ship scenes filmed there were still visible (the wreck of the Arizona) a few years later when I got to work on the beginning of a Narnia film there in 2009.
The numerous factual inaccuracies were pretty numerous, the Marlboro Lights in a sailor’s pocket…was inexcusable. A pretty amusing scene is where Affleck is talking to Colonel Doolittle in his office and behind the Colonel are his trophies for air racing. Look closely and there is an F-86 Saber jet from the Korean War. Affleck’s supposed action in the “Eagle Squadron” with the RAF is flawed. No American Army pilots were allowed to join. Only civilians. And what in the wide, wide world of sports is the intelligence officers and Beckinsale listening to during the Doolittle Raid? It certainly wasn’t radio chatter from the planes over Japan. They were on strict radio silence.
This one at least had some good action scenes during the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor which Bay did well although again inaccurately and had the always enchanting Beckinsale in the lead. A curious decision was the one to portray Mrs. Ben Affleck (Jennifer Garner) as a dowdy nurse, perhaps to take away from Beckinsale’s draw.
Redacted (2009) – If you’ve never heard of this one, don’t be alarmed, you aren’t missing anything. Normally I love the films of Brian De Palma but he swung for the fences with this one and missed. De Palma took a real incident about a rape of a young Iraqi girl and the murder of her family and tried to create an anti-war film about the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Surprisingly, some of the medium’s most well-known critics loved this film. Don’t waste your time, it was unmitigated trash, exploitation. He tried to shock the audience, right down to a slide show of gruesome pictures of Iraq’s war dead. We aren’t told who killed them, or who they are…it is just supposed to shock the viewer.
The message? here is that the war is making monsters out of American youth? I don’t know. It is kind of murky there but De Palma goes full-blown exploitive with the two Americans being the cartoonish, one-dimensional villains in the scene.The one perpetrator even wears a helmet mounted camera to catch the ugliness on film as the antithesis of the combat footage we’ve seen on screen during the war.
This was one of De Palma’s lesser efforts, the dialogue is atrocious and totally unbelievable for any grunts and sounds like a cliche machine.The way these guys interact with one another is a joke. Is this a unit that went to Iraq together or did they meet on the set just ten minutes before? It was just a crudely done, poorly defined film that even the “found camera footage” is unbelievable. It was a one-dimensional bit of schlock that is best left to the imagination.
Revolution (1985) – Ok, I know “The Patriot” also taking place in the Revolutionary War took tremendous liberties with the historical facts. But the cast at least made it entertaining. Revolution was one of the most horrible films I think I’ve ever been subjected to. A few years ago, I hadn’t even heard of it, and a friend of mine, said that I absolutely, positively had to watch it.
Well, I did and I agree with the original review published in 1985 with its release that it was quite probably the worst film of the year. The casting was absolutely ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I love Al Pacino. Some of his performances are legendary stuff, Scarface, Heat, the Godfather saga. But casting him as a trapper caught up in the Revolutionary War is a head scratcher. Where was he trapping? In Brooklyn? His accent is not American Revolution-esque unless we had a lot more Italian immigrants in the colonies than what has been reported.
Speaking of accents, Nastassja Kinski, who back in the day was quite the box office draw, has a completely different one from the actresses who play her mother and sisters. I guess we’re supposed it ignore it or assume that she was adopted.
The British characters led by Donald Sutherland, are the unequivocal bad guys here. And just in case you don’t see it first hand, the director makes sure that you do by making most of them kiddy-diddlers. Pederasty aside, it is still a horrible film that is just not worth your time. The director wasted some nicely filmed battle scenes in Yorktown by making a boring, yawner who…like the ones listed above, took great liberties with history.
There are several more we could have listed here but you get the idea. And please feel free to chime in with some of your own Hall of Shame War Films. So with Labor Day Weekend upcoming, if you’re not making one last run to the beach this summer and you’re content with sitting home and watching some of your favorite war films, do yourself a favor. Skip these five. You’ll be glad you did.
Photos courtesy: IMDB